Students in the junior varsity volleyball team show enthusiasm at Pajaro Valley High School Thursday during a one-day workshop with a group of 10 counselors from the national group Girls for a Change. Counselor Anahita Modaresi (at rear, top) is the Silicon Valley program director for Girls for a Change.
After classes at Pajaro Valley High School had ended for the day Thursday, nearly 100 girls chose to stay behind, gathering together in the cafeteria.
They ranged from freshmen to seniors; from athletes to academics. They clustered around several tables, their heads bent in conversation with friends. They had come to see a presentation from an organization called Girls For a Change. When the speakers addressed the students, conversation ceased and attention rarely wavered.
Girls For a Change is a San Jose-based organization that teaches girls that they have the power to make social change. It was created in 2002.
“We believe girls have the answers, they just need to be asked,” said Sally Green, the Silicon Valley executive director of the organization.
To punctuate this point, a speaker asked the group of girls to list what they think gives them power.
One girl, a freshman, said, “when an adult listens to what I have to say.”
The organization was created when a group of women began to take a look at the programs available for girls and young women. Many of these, they discovered, were led by adults, said Green.
“To work with young girls out of junior high to keep them interested they need to be in charge,” she said.
In Girls For a Change, the role of the adult leaders is merely to keep discussions on track.
“The adults are not doers,” said Green. “The big thing is that this is girl-led.”
To help them reach out to as many girls as possible, a crew from Girls For a Change began a road trip Wednesday that will take them to 25 schools in several states throughout the country. PV High was the third stop.
Many girls identify with the same issues, such as bullying and gang violence, said Green. The seminars encourage them to connect with others to discuss the problems and ways to deal with them.
Girls For a Change focuses on schools in low-income areas, in places where programs for young women are rare.
“We want to help more girls to realize their power to create social change,” said Carrie Elliot, national program director. “You can create change. It’s acceptable and doable.”
The visit by the organization was facilitated by counselor Wendy Temblador, who runs Girls United For Success, a PV High girl empowerment group that encourages young women to explore their options after high school by taking trips to universities.
“Many of these girls haven’t left Watsonville,” she said.”This gives them a different perspective.”
In addition to the all-female crew from Girls For a Change, volunteers from Driscolls Berries and Bay Federal Credit Union were also there to help, sharing their universal experiences among the generations.
“This helps young women see that there are older women who have experienced things they may be experiencing now,” said Temblador.
Too often, said Green, girls lose their voices and the belief that their voices count some time during adolescence.
“If you ask a girl what she cares about, she’ll tell you,” said Green. These girls are learning that their voices count. We want to teach these girls to hold onto their voices.”
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